When the deal goes awry

A bit over a week ago, the Southwest Airlines shopping portal (Rapid Rewards Shopping) offered 15 points per dollar when shopping at Sears.com.  In the post “Sears 15X: Leveraging the deal” I showed a number of ways one could capitalize on the opportunity.  And, in the post “Sears 15X: Shopping for 110,000 points” I showed how one could earn 110,000 Southwest points by double-dipping: buy gift cards for 15X and then use them to buy merchandise for another 15X.  It wasn’t easy, but it was possible to find merchandise that could be resold at an acceptable loss.

I went all in with this idea and I now have over 110,000 points pending.  I won’t yet tell you what I bought because I don’t want the unfair advantage of essentially advertising my items here for resale.  Once my items have all sold, though, I’ll write-up my results.

While things are going well so far for me, they’re not going well for everyone.  Here is a cautionary tale from a reader named Phil:

I ordered 3 Nikon D5100s. At the time they were selling for $675 when Amazon had them for $700 and they were selling on ebay for $675 too. So in theory flip them on ebay, pay ebay costs, and I am out at a good price. So as soon as I get the notice the order has shipped I list the 3 on ebay. One of the three sells for $675. Happy days.

Then the delivery arrives. Box looks kind of small for 3 cameras. Open it up, only one camera delivered. But of course the packing slip says THREE. I can feel my heart sinking at this point. Sears customer service is the only one that is on a par with Cartera. After calling their stereo-typical-couldn’t-care-less-but-have-a-nice-day-i-hope-i-served-your-needs call center India and being bounced around I am eventually told they will open a research item to see what happened. I am now being told that it will be next week (some two weeks after ordering) that they will get back to me. The one smoking gun I have is the UPS tracking showed the shipping weight as 5lbs, which is the shipping weight of one camera. But I expect it to be a while before I get the other 2 cameras

Meanwhile, Amazon dropped their price to $650 and then Sears go and match, plus a 10% one day special, putting it to $582. I put in for price protection – but get this in the meantime the camera sells out!!! Customer service say they can’t verify price because it is no longer available. WTF! Surely they can check their own pricing history? Fortunately I took a screen print but I am not sure it’s going to work.

So now I *know* they don’t have any more of the camera in stock, and they still owe me 2 of them, and the price is dropping faster than a proverbial whores drawers! I cannot see a happy ending to this

I know these deals are not without risk, but this one has been another abject frustration and I am counting myself out of future Sears buy and sell deals because of the difficulties when things go wrong with either Sears or Cartera. Caveat Emptor!!!

Phil, thanks for sharing this.  Many of the schemes I write about have real risks and so it helps to illuminate them.  I hope this somehow works out for you in the end.



  1. I would take the risk of returning the items and hoping for no clawback. Or getting the two camera with a manual refund for the difference in the old price and the new price.

  2. I had something similar happen to me a few years ago. I ordered some stuff from Office Depot and they had to ship it in 2 shipments but the packing slips showed the full order for each shipment so OD tried to claim I had received extra merchandise and tried to charge me. They tried to use the UPS packing slip and the fact that someone had signed for it against me. I disputed the charge with AMEX and then OD would try to recharge the card and then I would dispute it again. We went back and forth for several months and in the end they finally gave up. A lesson about how those packing slips which probably most of us never look at before signing for the package can potentially be used against you. It could have been worse for Phil they could have shipped him a couple of bricks(literally!).

  3. I had similar issue with home depot. Ordered bunch of light bulbs. They shipped 2 of the twenty I ordered but packing list showed all shipped. The ups weight was my smoking gun also. Called and got helpful rep who credited my card right away since it was discontinued item. Keep trying and you may get smart rep.

  4. We had something similar happen when we ordered a $100 Sears gift card from the Sears online store. We opened the envelope when it arrived by mail and by all indications it should have been $100. However at the store the card value was coming up as $50. It took 2 hours on the phone with “customer service’ and 3 visits to the store to convince them they screwed up and ‘possibly’ someone in their gift card fulfillment center was swapping $50 cards in where $100 should have gone. The only way we could prove this problem were that the last few digits of the gift card number printed on the paper we received the card on, so it showed that it matched. Lesson learned for us is never throw out the paper you get a gift card on (or receipt) as it may be your only proof when a problem hits you.

  5. @Phil
    You should try to contact sears online solutions. They are amazing at resolving online orders issues. Number to reach them is 1 (800) 326-1181. This includes price match etc. They instantly provide the discounts for the price match.

  6. But have they charged you for the 3 cameras? And have your points posted from the full purchase? I once bought a $600 appliance thru Amex promo for $200 cash back. Was very upset when Sears cancelled order. Was very happy when Amex promo delivered cash back anyways. Crossed my mind to actually look for Sears items about to go OOS hoping for cancellations.

  7. @Enigma – thank you for that number, just called and got price adjustment (sending me a gift card for $150). Wow that was fast! Hope this doesn’t jeopardize any more than 2250 points.

  8. Well my items arrived and the Ebaying should be fine…but nary a pending transaction in the Southwest mall. I e-mailed them and they gave me the rote “transactions can take up to blah weeks to post” or whatever. They did include all my click-throughs though so I know those registered. I bought on the 23rd, so maybe they’re backlogged? Maybe Carera hates Chrome? Maybe it’s because it was my first Southwest mall & Sears online purchase?

  9. Wow! I did not expect to see that comment make me a little (in)famous here on the blog! :)

    Thanks to everyone for the tips so far. I should point out I am not a rookie to this but happens to be the second time I’ve gone “big” on a Sears/Cartera promo and the first time Cartera screwed it up this time I guess Sears had to do it. I guess I should do the next one given they say third time’s a charm right? :)

    @Enigma – thanks for that number. At least you get through to a non-scripted human being. However they are still not massively empowered and I am being told I just have to wait until Tuesday which is the turnaround time of their offline research department. My biggest fear is they actually just refund me because then I am stuck with Sears gift cards and not enough points for companion pass. But the camera is now showing back in stock though at a higher price so I think they should be able to fulfill, but who knows what they will find.

    In terms of the price protection fiasco, I got a reasonable resolution to that. They stood firm on not doing the price protection, but then I thought everyone else dropped their price when Amazon kicked this off so I checked Best Buy and lo and behold they were cheaper. So I at least got a price match to the Best Buy price plus “10% of the difference” (which is a great way of making nothing sound like something!). So my cost is now roughly equal to the selling price on ebay again give or take a few bucks and Amazon are sold out so things are looking up – assuming they can deliver the goods.

    I’m still hopeful it will all end well, but the point of the post and the comment really is true – these kind of tricks are not for the faint-hearted. Well maybe that is a bit melodramatic, but for sure they are not for you if you are not willing to risk it going wrong, or you don’t have the time/energy/patience/desire to deal with customer service mazes if and when things go wrong. I still have to tip my hat off to Darren for the original scheme and I would frankly have never have connected the dots to the companion pass that makes this so worthwhile, so thanks again and I will keep everyone posted

    And meanwhile nobody go selling D5100s on Ebay and if you want to buy one brand new in Sears packaging drop me a line 😉

  10. Never buy anything from Sears. They make it very difficult to return anything bought online. I had bought a Android tablet that was not functioning well and I could not get through to return it. So I ended up disputing the charge through American Express (it was charged on the credit card). Even Amex was not abler to get proper response from them and ended up crediting my account after one year.

  11. @Ford, @FM – my sears 15x adventure is also hanging in suspense similar to Ford’s. Cartera has confirmed the click throughs, but not my transactions. Since january i have tried SW mall five times. First four times through firefox including sears 15x episode. None of the transactions have posted. So far i have received zilch in terms of points.
    Fifth time, i used chrome on 8x HD promo. It worked! My transaction and points were confirmed (not deposited yet).
    I believe the reason it works on chrome is because there is no “do not track” feature on chrome, which i have enabled on firefox. From here on I will be using chrome for these types of transactions. But the downside is – you allow google and others web spies to track your web browsing habits.

  12. ks1 – good point. but it may also prevent mall activity from posting correctly. anyway, I am no expert. my simple approach going forward is to do all my normal browsing at high privacy setting on firefox. shopping mall purchases on chrome with low privacy setting. hopefully it works out.

  13. @vr I used Chrome’s incognito mode for my SW mall purchase and my shopping account has (thus far) reflected my purchases.

  14. Bugger. They refunded the cameras. So this one has not worked out for me. I may get real lucky and have the points stick but I seriously doubt it. So I am now going to be left about 20k short of the companion pass. I will see how the cards fall and take stock once the points that did book crossover.

    I did get a decent refund out of them which means the one camera I did buy and sell is now at a profit, but I am stuck with $1.5k in Sears gift cards. I think I will just sit on them and wait for the next big bonus round from Sears. I am sure they will have a 10x or maybe another 15x with one of the airlines before the year end. Meanwhile I have to grit my teeth at lending money interest free to Sears, a junky credit at the best of times (I can buy Sears bonds on etrade maturing the end of this year that yield nearly 6%, so think about it there is real opportunity cost here)

    My one practical lesson is that I will not rely on Sears fulfillment for time bound deals like this in future. There are three or four Sears stores local to me so I will order one by one for in-store pick-up on items they have in stock. Secondly I will try to diversify what I buy so that if one item ends up in a price war, it doesn’t impact the whole order. I have seen others get burned on this where they order like 10x Samsung Galaxies and suddenly there is a price drop and then you lose across the board. Take the same principle as investments – diversify, and buy securities that are easily deliverable with low settlement risk :)

  15. Good morning Phil,

    I came across this post today and wanted to contact you. My name is Mike and I am a member of the Sears Social Media Support team. I am sorry to see that you did not receive all three of the cameras that you ordered. It is always irritating when an order is not fulfilled correctly, much less when the order is based on a time-sensitive promotion such as in this instance. While I am happy to see that you have contacted our Online Solutions group, if you would allow me the opportunity, I would like to connect you with a dedicated case manager to discuss your experience and reach a mutually acceptable resolution in this matter. At your convenience, please contact our office via email at smsupport@searshc.com so you don’t have to be upset by this any longer. In the email, please provide a contact number and the phone number the cameras were purchased under (if different than the contact phone number) and we will call you directly. In addition, please include your Screen name (Phil) in the email for reference to your issue. Again, we’re sorry for any trouble we have caused and we hope to talk to you soon.

    Thank you,

    Mike D.
    Social Media Moderator
    Sears Social Media Support

  16. Do not sell what you do not have or at least report to have. Sometimes you may think its a sure thing, but stuff happens. Wrong quantity, damaged product, incorrect product, wrong condition, wrong color, etc. I’ve had it all happen to me. Reselling commodity products is a real gamble and there may be more fees than you initially consider. You also have to take the risk of a criminal buyer, damaged shipment, or other variables that in the end makes you lose out on the funds you received as seller.

    Risk-wise, I think I rather use something like Kiva (p2p lending) than trying to resell commodity products.

  17. I wanted to provide a final update here. As you can see Sears Social Media tried to put out the fire here by responding on the board and I took them up on their offer of help. I genuinely thought they would be helpful. However after a couple of emails, couple of calls, they just called to say there is nothing they can do. I am often very cynical of commercial social media as they are just there to try spin bad situations, but sometimes they can be great, but in this case, thanks Mike D for frankly pretty much nothing.

    And if you recall the issue is they cancelled the order because they said they were out of stock. I had spoken to customer service who told me that they would try to locate stock but if they could not, only then would they cancel the stock. So I decided to call my local Sears, which is 2 miles from my home, and were showing online they had two in stock. Customer service had given me some mumbo-jumbo that stock levels online are not necessarily accurate. Anyway I call the store and got through to a very helpful lady who said her computer was showing there were two in stock in store. I asked her if she could verify and she literally walked into the store-room and found them and said “yep they are here”. I gave this information to the social media response people in the hope that they would be able to take that and use it to fulfill the order. STILL THEY FAILED! These guys are absolutely freaking useless. The customer was able to do with a five minute call what multiple customer service and social media clowns collectively failed to do on multiple locations, and that is fine the stock they needed to fulfill the order – and that is within 2 miles of his darn home!!! Lord knows how many more there are if I expanded nationwide.

    So one big lesson from all this, if you really need to actually buy something other than for points, NEVER use Sears. They SUCK.

  18. @Phil Thank you for updating us on how the situation panned out. I’m was very optimistic for you when your post was noticed by Sears. It is disappointing that stock wasn’t the limitation here.

  19. I ended up stung, too, because of the Sears “phantom online inventory” problem. I hope Sears survives long enough for me to use my $4K of giftcards. The Altman Z-Score for Sears, predicts they will be bankrupt within two years. On the bright side, my pairs trade of long WMT, short SHLD (the idea for which I got from this experience), is working nicely. 😉

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